To say that NFL football has been missed would be a drastic understatement to most. If you are Redskins’ 6th year head coach Jay Gruden, you probably have an immense amount of anxiousness as you prepare for your first preseason game of the 2019 NFL season. It’s no secret all eyes are on Gruden and his staff early in this pivotal season, and he knows this needs to be the best one this team has had during his tenure. There are a lot of variables that go into having productive practices during camp; between the coaches being prepared, the players being at the top of their game and well-conditioned, having healthy contributors, and not to mention you flat out need talent. This training camp has been full of new faces on both sides of the football, and the absence of one mainstay perennial pro bowl offensive tackle, Trent Williams, who is yet to report. Trent has held out all training camp, and only he really knows whether he will, or won’t return for the 2019 season. However, at this point, the Redskin locker room cannot afford to be focused on anything other than the Cleveland Browns who they open their 2019 NFL preseason against tonight.
The preseason isn’t about wins and losses. It’s about having productive snaps and finding out exactly what you have on your roster. It’s about correcting mistakes practice to practice and game to game and building a roster with the most impressive talent you can. Preseason game prep is a lot different from regular season preparation, and the goal for each game is different. Right now, Coach Gruden and his staff are trying to figure out exactly how long each unit is going to play and figuring exactly what players they need to see a lot more of in order to make fair evaluations. As they work towards trimming the roster down to 53, each game will have its own story. Tonight, certain offensive linemen, running back Adrian Peterson, and a few other skill players who they anticipate will make the team won’t play much. Maybe 2 or 3 series depending on how much Gruden wants to find out as he attempts to find a cohesive starting offensive unit.
Finding offensive cohesion starts with your quarterback. The Redskins currently have an open quarterback competition taking place so it will be interesting to see how Gruden divvies the snaps up between rookie Dwyane Haskins and veterans Colt McCoy and Case Keenum. Colt has been ruled out of tonight’s game, so we could see a 50/50 split between Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum.
The running backs unit, if healthy and utilized correctly, can be the best collection of talent in the league at the position. You should expect veteran Adrian Peterson to carry the bulk of the load early in the season as they work Derrius Guice into the mix and increase his carries as he gets into NFL game shape. Chris Thompson hopes to return to his 2017 form after being hampered with injuries (broken leg/rib issues) the last couple of seasons. Returning for his third season is Samaje Perine who is looking to reestablish himself as a significant role player on the team after missing the majority of last season due to injury.
The battle at wide receiver is going to be interesting mainly because there is not much separation between the first man that will make the team as a wideout, and the first one that will be cut. This may be the most competitive position battle we see throughout preseason, and you can expect the final 5 or 6 to make the team to come down to a numbers crunch.
The offensive line will have to evolve a lot during this preseason without their anchor Trent Williams in the fold. Trent missed the entire training camp, so at this point, the Redskins coaching staff’s mindset should be to prepare as if he will not be a member of the team in 2019. The front office signed former pro bowl left tackle Donald Penn to the team to compete for the starting left tackle spot in the event Trent does not return. The Redskins hope Geron Christian’s development has been expedited. He needs to make a significant jump in his second year in the league to be a viable option at tackle. Returning starters Chase Roullier (C), Brandon Scherff (RG), and Morgan Moses (RT) all look to be healthy and are looking forward to playing a full season together; the entire offensive line was decimated with injuries throughout last season. The Redskins also signed O-lineman Erick Flowers as a free agent who can play multiple positions (currently listed as the starting left guard on the depth chart) in addition to drafting guard Wes Martin from Indiana and Ross Pierschbacher from Alabama to add some youth and depth. Expect Flowers to see significant time at multiple positions tonight. Wes and Ross will play significant snaps as well.
Tight end has the usual suspects in Jordan Reed, who has had a tremendous camp, the veteran Vernon Davis, and Jeremy Sprinkle leading the way on the depth chart currently. Reed and Davis will likely not see significant time so expect Sprinkle along with JP Holtz, and Matt Flanagan to see significant reps Thursday night.
Thursday night will provide Redskin fans with their first opportunity to see this defense in action “everybody” (well, at least the players themselves) has been clamoring about all training camp. The defensive line of Matt Ioannidis who reuped with a new contract this offseason, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen are the current starters on the depth chart heading into preseason game 1. No surprises there.
The outside linebackers who are slated to be starters are Ryan Kerrigan with Cassanova McKinzy backing him up, and Ryan Anderson opposite Kerrigan with rookie Montez Sweat looking to push Anderson for immediate minutes, and maybe even his starting role.
It was clear the Redskins were ready for a youth movement at middle linebacker after they waived last year starter Mason Foster a few days prior to camp. They start this preseason with two new starters; second year linebacker Shaun Dion-Hamilton and free agent pickup veteran Jon Bostic. Rookie Cole Holcomb and Josh Harvey-Clemons are slated as back ups and will see a lot of playing time during the course of these preseason games.
The defensive backs may be the most spirited and the most competitive of the defensive unit. Returning as starters are Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar at the corners with Fabian Moreau as Dunbar’s first backup, and free agent veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie backing up Josh Norman. Rookie Jimmy Moreland has received a lot of praise during camp and will be fighting to overthrow someone for their depth chart spot. Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander both return this season in an effort to prove they deserve significant playing time in addition to making the final 53.
Montae Nicholson began last season as the Redskins’ starting free safety, and this season he will once again have that opportunity. He struggled last year to build off of the promising season he had in 2017, but he will look to regain that form in 2019. Second year free safety Troy Apke is currently second on the depth chart and will do all he can to prove he belongs in the mix this preseason. The Redskins went out and signed their biggest fish in free agency, and current number 1 strong safety, Landon Collins this offseason. The secondary will rely on him to make a lot of big plays throughout the course of this season which means you may not see a heavy dose of him during these preseason games. Deshazor Everett is listed as his current backup and has played some quality snaps for the Redskins over the last 4 years. He will be looking to prove throughout this preseason that he is more than capable of playing a more impactful role on the team this year.
The Cleveland Browns come into this game with some added pieces to their already talented roster and look to establish themselves early against the Redskins so they can minimize the number of snaps their starters receive. The Browns pretty much have solidified all their starting skill positions offensively, and even their offensive line, so they want to have quick, productive drives, but most importantly, finish the game injury free. The Redskins look to establish continuity and tighten up some struggle areas in various positions, and this game will provide them with study film to do so.
Each preseason game, they want to build off of the last one and continue to improve establishing momentum and confidence going into game 1 of the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles. We will all sit back and see what type of team has been built. We will all get to see just how prepared they are. We will all get the opportunity to make our own evaluations based on what we see under the lights starting this Thursday. Redskins football is back ladies and gentlemen...As you were...